Having comfortable sheets is a pillar for getting a good night's sleep. Many variables play into determining how comfortable a sheet will be. How to choose comfortable bed sheets isn't a question that can be answered easily.
What we can do is tell you all the different elements that will affect the comfort of your bed sheets so that you can make your own informed decision. And that's exactly what we're going to do!
What is the best fabric for bed sheets?
There are several different fabrics that are used to make bed sheets. Some are better than others and some are simply different than others. Here's a guide to differentiate between fabrics and see which one is best for you.
Sheets that are 100% cotton are likely American cotton. Cotton is durable, wrinkle-resistant, and generally affordable. Cotton can absorb moisture, meaning if you ever sweat during the night, it will be able to wick it away. Cotton is relatively soft and is easy to wash and care for. Cotton is usually created with a relatively loose weave which allows for air circulation which can help you stay cooler at night.
Egyptian cotton gets its own heading because it is in fact a noticeable upgrade from regular cotton. Egyptian cotton is perfect for bedding because its fibers are extra long, soft, and strong. Egyptian cotton is hand-picked which allows the fibers to remain flat and in their most natural condition. This allows it to be made into yarns that are very long and fine, making them ideal to be woven into bedding. These fine fibers are soft and create a strong yet flexible sheet.
Egyptian sheets will wrinkle more easily than regular cotton sheets because of these thinner threads. A thinner sheet also means that it will be lightweight and breathable, indicating that it's a good fabric to help you stay cool at night. Because Egyptian cotton is a more luxurious material, sheets made from this type cotton will come at a higher price point.
Supima cotton is another high-quality cotton right up there with Egyptian cotton. Just like Egyptian cotton, Supima cotton also has fibers that are extra long; this promotes strength and extra softness. Supima cotton is created in the USA which means it stands up to higher regulation and standards. Supima cotton also has a special property which allows it to get softer over time. Because of its high-quality, Supima sheets are more expensive than most but around the same price as Egyptian cotton sheets.
Bamboo sheets have experienced a huge increase in popularity over recent years. Bamboo sheets are known for being eco-friendly, naturally hypoallergenic, and absorbent. Bamboo sheets are also extremely soft and comfortable, but this delicacy also means that they need to be handled more gently when being cared for. Sheets made from bamboo will be lightweight, breathable, and able to absorb 40% more water than cotton. Because bamboo sheets are still relatively new and innovative compared to classical sheets, they are priced at a premium.
Polyester sheets are highly durable and are priced much lower than bamboo or luxury cottons. Polyester is usually blended with other materials because on its own it would be very rough - this is what allows it to be priced lower than other fabrics. Even when combined with other materials, polyester is still rough and scratchy which is why it usually produces low-grade sheets. The biggest selling point for polyester sheets is that they will be affordable and last a long time.
Silk is commonly thought of as being the most luxurious material for bedding. Just like bamboo sheets, silk is naturally hypoallergenic and much more expensive than other materials. Silk initially feels cool to touch, but because silk is usually woven more tightly than other fabrics, it is also better at trapping body heat. Silk is one of the smoothest fabrics out there, but some people find it "slippery" to sleep on. Because of its premium quality, silk also requires more delicate care.
Does thread count matter?
Thread count is the number of threads that are woven into every square inch of fabric. In the bedding industry, thread count is commonly used as an indicator of quality, but it isn't that simple.
Thread count affects the weight, permeability, and softness of a sheet.
Higher thread counts are usually made with finer threads, and finer threads mean a softer and smoother finish. Higher thread count also indicates that the sheet will be thicker and heavier, meaning it isn't as breathable and will keep you warmer at night.
Some companies artificially inflate their thread count and use lower-grade materials. The trick is to find a sheet with a mid-high thread count and is made from a high-end material.
We recommend looking for sheets with a thread count of 300-700.
Sheets with a thread count between 500-600 that are also made from a high quality cotton would be optimal for striking the balance between luxury, softness, and breathability.
Percale or Sateen Weave?
Percale sheets are woven with a one-under one-over technique whereas sateen sheets are woven with a three-over one-under technique.
Percale results in a cool and crisp feeling final product. Percale is a better weave for those who feel hot during the night. Percale weave creates a matte looking finish and is highly durable. Percale sheets will wrinkle more easily than sateen.
Sateen creates a smoother and softer feeling and looks slightly shiny, which is often perceived as more luxurious. Sateen is slightly heavier, meaning the sheet will lay closer to your body and keep you warmer during the night.
Is a fitted sheet really necessary?
Yes, a fitted sheet is really necessary, and if you need help learning how to fold a fitted sheet, we've got you covered.
You can have the softest sheets that exist but if your mattress cover is coming loose with every toss and turn, you aren't going to be very comfortable. It's important to use a fitted sheet as the bottom layer mattress cover. A fitted sheet will stay in place and keep the surface you lie on comfortably flat all night long. When shopping for a fitted sheet, remember that mattresses vary in their depth (thickness) and not all fitted sheets will be able to accommodate an extra tall or thick mattress.
Are they returnable?
Bed sheets aren't a product you can test out before you buy it. Considering that some sheets can come at a surprisingly high cost, you may want to check the company policy before you make your purchase. Many companies take this into account and make returns and exchanges easy.
Ongoing Care for Ongoing Comfort
Caring for your bed sheets can help keep them in their best and most comfortable condition for longer. Keep these care tips in mind so your bed sheets last as long as possible, and if you need a little more guidance, check out our guide on How to Do Laundry, the Right Way.
Go easy on the detergent
It's easy to over pour detergent. It would make sense that a little extra detergent would make your sheets a little extra soft, right? Wrong. Using too much detergent can hinder your washing machine's ability to thoroughly wash out all the soap and other products from the cycle. This results in residue that will stiffen your sheets and make them feel crusty.
Help your sheets stay soft by going easy on the detergent to ensure that all the detergent is being thoroughly rinsed from the cycle.
Use vinegar instead of fabric softener
Conventional fabric softeners can end up covering sheets with a "glossy" coating that will build up over time and make your sheets less soft and more prone to gathering dirt and bacteria.
Instead, use ¼ cup of white vinegar. Pour the vinegar into the fabric softener compartment and run the washer normally. As a bonus, vinegar can also help whiten and brighten colors as well as help to remove tough odors.
Don't over dry them
Resist hitting "extra time" on the drier. As nice as it is to grab piping hot sheets out of the machine, excess heat will wear down your sheets, making them thinner and less soft.
The Rest Is up to You
At the end of the day, it's a matter of personal preference. We can't tell you which sheets you'll find the most comfortable anymore than we can tell you which ice-cream flavor you'll find the yummiest.
When choosing bed sheets, read the labels, read reviews, and try them out if you can.
The rest is up to you--sleep tight!